We follow the rope in the forest at hand height to the next kiosk, sliding it in our hand. We are exploring the Braille Trail at the Montour Preserve in Montour County, Pa., which was developed to enable people with sight impairments to use their other senses to explore the natural world. At the next station, the raised instructions tell travelers to “squeeze the spongy American elm’s bark. It was used by the Delaware Indians as flaps for siding and roofing on their long houses.” Next, we are instructed to kneel down and feel a bed of moss. The trail is also a powerful reminder to those of us without impairments to be more aware of our natural world and appreciate what we may normally take for granted.
The 1,000-acre Montour Preserve, north of Danville, also offers 14 miles of other trails, the 165-acre Lake Chillisquaque to boat in, a nesting pair of Bald eagles to watch dive for a fish, a fantastic educational center, and a fossil pit to explore. The expansive cut exposed a large variety of ancient sea creature fossils and the public is free to dig and take home their treasures.
Cycling recently exploded in the Danville area where the Montour Area Recreation Commission manages six sites. The jewel of the system is Hopewell Park where three loops totaling 5.6 miles give the rider a chance to twist and turn through the open fields, dotted with fragrant autumn olive, evergreen forests, small wooden bridges and beautiful views. The park shares the space with hunters, so check timing and hunting seasons.
For relaxing cycling try the Robbins Trail, the very first rail-trail in America. The pathway once held a narrow gauge line used for carrying iron ore between deposits and furnaces. The rails were dug up by local foundry owners who then purchased the newly invented “Boneshaker bikes” from London. Townsfolk thought the new-fangled bikes dangerous, so they banned them from street use. In 1890, the cyclists converted the rail bed to a trail where enjoy their hobby. Today, a lovely 3.5 mile loop can be traversed using the old Reading rail bed trail.
Exercise encourages hunger and thirst, so head toward downtown Danville to visit Old Forge Brewing Company, which participates in many community based programs, including the area’s many bike and running races. The owners take the spent grain from brewing their delicious beer to a local cattle farm, which in turn supplies the tavern with some of the best beef you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
In downtown Danville, there are shops and a historic district, including the 1792 stone Montgomery House which now houses a museum. Murals decorate the town’s wide walls, sharing the area’s history, including its big claim to fame, the invention of the T-rail. This very important component of the railroad was manufactured by the Montour Iron Works, and brought wealth to the mill and iron working town, as well as played an important role in America’s industrial progress and the transcontinental railroad. At Old Forge, you can rest your feet at the bar on an actual T-rail!
For a great night’s rest, check into the Pine Barn Inn, with its fine dining as well as casual tavern fare. The original section of stone banked barn and open timbers create a beautiful atmosphere to enjoy their scrumptious food. The wonderfully comfortable beds in the 100+ room inn offer perfect respite after a day of enjoying the surrounding parks.
For more information
Columbia-Montour Tourism: iTourColumbiaMontour.com.